Oskar Blues Brewery will roll out its latest canned beer tomorrow, the Gubna Imperial IPA, an uncommon brew made with rye malt and only one kind of hops. I had a pint of it at the Tasty Weasel, the brewery's Longmont tasting room, a couple of weeks ago, and discovered that it is quite a delicious beer. I have been craving it ever since.
But I will never buy it in the store, not for $14.99 for a four-pack. I can't afford it.
The craft beer industry is brewing bigger and more fantastical creations all the time, breaking new ground with styles and ingredients and bringing out complex beers that rival fine red wines for their complexity, their nuance and their flavor profiles.
I'm just not sure that beer makers are going to be able to bridge the gap between Bud Light and Silver Oak - especially right now.
But not for lack of trying.
On January 15, Boulder's Avery Brewing released Black Tot Imperial Oatmeal Stout, the third in a series of "one-and-done" barrel-aged beers. Aged in rum barrels, Black Tot tastes like roasted dark malts, sweet rum, espresso, toffee, molasses and vanilla.
The price: $8 for a single, 12-ounce bottle.
In a newsletter titled, "Big Flavor Despite Hard Times: Colorado Continues to Embrace Unique Beers," brewmaster Adam Avery insisted that, "While most would assume that the timing of such a release -- of pricey beer when many folks are watching their wallets -- would spell disaster, the Barrel-Aged Series from Avery Brewing Company and other ultra-high-end brews from across Colorado saw tremendous success in 2009."
He went on to write that "evolution within the market has allowed us to be even more daring with the beers that we release and continue to push the envelope." Six or eight years ago, he pointed out, the beer wouldn't have been "financially feasible."
I don't doubt it, but I'll probably never know for sure since I won't be spending the $8 (or $48 for a six-pack). Other beers I can't afford include Oskar Blues four-packs of Ten FIDY ($12.99-$14.99) or Gordon ($11.99) despite the fact that I think Gordon is the best beer currently being brewed in Colorado and Ten FIDDY is one of the best stouts.
Nor can I afford Odell Brewing's Mountain Standard ($12.99 for a 22-ounce bottle) which is a head-jerkingly fine IPA that carries the best moniker of any Colorado beer. And I won't buy any New Belgium's Lips of Faith la Folie for $13.99 per 22-ounce bottle or Breckenridge Brewery's Small Batch 471 IPA, at $14.99 for a six-pack.
And I'm the target market: dude between the ages of 25-50 with a white-collar job who is willing to fork out $9.99 on a regular basis for a six-pack of Great Divide's Titan IPA rather than pay just $4 more for an 18-pack of Bud Light.
And if the target is balking, I don't know who else is going to pay up?
But Chad Melis, marketing director for Oskar Blues, says there are plenty of people. In fact, Oskar Blues presold its entire batch of Ted FIDY last season (a seasonal beer that it only sells for six months out of each year), in part because of the awards, attention and recognition that it has received on a national level.
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He also believes that the idea of promoting craft beers as a complement to food has taken off in recent years. "People are starting to understand that and replace wine at the dinner table with beer," Melis says. "When you have a complex beer with all these different flavor profiles going on, it really change the taste of the food."
The result is that breweries like Oskar Blues, Avery and Odell will continue to make - and be able to afford to make - super high-end craft beers that some people are willing to buy.
Some people - but not me.